Partners paddling in world champs


Two experienced Queens-town paddlers are competing in the world waka ama sprint championships in Tahiti over the next two weeks.

Frances Piacun, 68, and her partner Leon Williams, 63, will be in six-person crews racing over 500 and 1000 metres in the golden masters women’s and men’s divisions.

Piacun formed the Wakatipu Waka Ama Club almost four years ago – the sport’s based on traditional outrigger canoes.

At the worlds she’s captaining her crew, from all over New Zealand, under her club banner.

“It’s really special – there’s not many crews that have gone to the sprints from the South Island.

“Even though the other girls don’t live here, they’ve trained with us.”

Williams, who’s also coaching Piacun’s crew, will be joined in his six-seater by five men from Auckland north, and they’ll also be joined by a Tauranga team to make up a 12-man crew.

The partners have both won medals, including golds, at world champs before, but Williams says the standard of competition’s getting tougher.

“Every time I go I see different countries.”

Despite Queenstown’s freezing temperatures, he and Piacun have been training in single-seaters on Lake Wakatipu almost every day of the week for up to an hour at a time.

Piacun: “I’ve only had two mornings where I couldn’t feel my fingers for the first kilometre.”

Williams says the biggest issue in Tahiti, where temperatures will be 30-plus, will be hydration.